Anti-war demonstrations in Berlin

28 Jul 1914 22:00
  • Berlin
Friedrichstraße, January 1914

On Tuesday 28 July about 30 mass anti-war meetings were organised by the SPD (Social Democratic Party) at various locations across greater Berlin, 13 of them within Berlin city. 

Meeting halls overflowed into the streets. A total of well over 100,000 people attended the demonstrations in greater Berlin, around 30,000 of them within Berlin city, according to police records [1].

The meetings each passed the same lengthy resolution, beginning with the words : "Austria by its brutal ultimatum has declared war on Serbia. . . ." and calling on the German Government to avoid military intervention [2].

The mood at the meetings is said to have been subdued  and there was no discussion of what should be done in the event of war (each of the meetings was observed and recorded by a policeman). People were nevertheless urged to march into the city centre, and did so.

At 9pm between 10 and 30 marches were heading into the city centre from the working-class districts. Most were made up of 1000-3000 people, but some were 10,000 strong. They visited places that had previously been the focus of pro-war parades, singing socialist songs like the Arbeiter-Marseillaise and chanting slogans such as "Down with War".

Police blockades were set up to stop the marches reaching the city centre. As the demonstrations approached the blockades they were attacked by mounted police, some of them wieding swords.

Some of  the demonstrators managed to evade the police, and at about 10pm 1000-2000 demonstrators reached the Unter den Linden in the city centre. They marched up and down the street, while the bourgeoise on the pavements and in the cafes sang patriotic sings. Reports differ over who was in the majority, but it appears that the SPD may have achieved a narrow majority for a short time. According to the Frankfurter Zeitung:

"in front of the cafés and restaurants there were masses of people. The “Wacht am Rhein” and “Heil dir im Siegerkranz” sounded out of thousands of throats, but one could also hear the “Arbeitermarseillaise” sung powerfully by closely organized parades . . . It was an incredible confusion of heated calls, of demonstrations for and against, which rose to a raging noise, and which increased ever more the general excitement. The police were completely powerless at 10.00 against this mass of people."

Mounted police subsequently cleared the street. By midnight all was quiet.

Demonstrations also developed at locations outside the city centre during the evening, and were dispersed by police.

Similar mass meetings and demonstrations were held elsewhere in Germany at around the same date.